Unlock your PC with your Samsung phone’s fingerprint reader

Jon Fingas, Engadget, 7/7/17

Virtually any recent Galaxy now supports Windows Hello.

Have a recent Samsung phone and a Windows 10 PC? Life’s about to get a bit easier. Samsung has updated its Flow app to let you use the fingerprint reader on Galaxy devices running Android Marshmallow or newer (such as the S6, S7 and S8) to log into any Windows 10 PC using Hello, not just Samsung’s own Galaxy TabPro S. If you regularly keep your phone on-hand, you won’t have to enter your password every time you sit down at your computer.

Flow is also much more helpful if you regularly check alerts on your phone. The app now syncs mobile notifications with any Windows 10 device, rather than just Samsung-branded PCs. You won’t have to worry about missing a text message or an Instagram like just because you’re working at your desk.

Posted on July 7, 2017 at 5:53 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: 

Rooting Android vs Jailbreaking iPhone: Which One is Better?

Rajesh Pandey, iPhoneHacks, 5/30/17

For advanced iPhone users, the best way to customise their handset is to jailbreak it which opens the door to a world of tweaks and hacks. While latest iOS releases are now not getting jailbreak’d as frequently as before, it still remains a popular choice among power users who cannot use their iPhone without their favorite Cydia tweaks.

Then, over in the Android world, there’s rooting. Similar to jailbreak, rooting an Android device opens the door to a world of hacks and tweaks that help improve a device performance, add new features to it, and more. Similar to jailbreaking, rooting is popular among power Android users, though its popularity has declined over the last few years.

Rooting Android vs Jailbreaking iPhone

There have been long (and unhealthy) debates among iPhone and Android users as to which is better: a jailbroken iPhone or a rooted Android device. While on surface, both things might seem the same — getting unauthorised access to certain system partitions to tweak files and make the device do what you want — they are actually very different from each other.

Rooting and Jailbreaking are the same thing

On paper, rooting an Android smartphone and jailbreaking an iPhone are the same thing. One essentially bypasses the security checks and restrictions imposed by the OEMs to gain access to system files and modify them to enhance existing features or add new ones. Both — rooting and jailbreaking — void the warranty of a device, though both are reversible and one can always restore their phone back to its stock state if they wish to.

Rooting and jailbreaking differ from each other in what they are capable of doing and the process of doing it. Rooting an Android device is more complex and time-consuming while jailbreaking an iPhone usually takes a few steps. However, while it is possible to root most Android devices out there, it’s rare that a jailbreak tool is available for the latest iOS release. Many Android OEMs like OnePlus actually embrace the third-party developer community and make it easier to root their devices. Apple, on the other hand, is completely against jailbreaking and actively patches exploits with every new iOS release that makes jailbreaking difficult.

Why root an Android device?

There are many benefits to rooting an Android device. The whole concept that it provides you with greater customisation options is true only to a certain extent. Most OEMs now offer plenty of customisation options on their Android devices which will suffice the need of most people out there. While you do get more customisation options on a rooted Android device, the additional options will only please a handful of people.

Nowadays, people primarily root their Android device to install a newer version of Android on it. It’s widely known that most Android OEMs end up ditching their smartphones a few months after its release. This means that they are left without software updates and it is up to the third-party community to keep the phone going. So, for example, the OnePlus One which never officially received the Nougat update is still going strong more than three years after its release, with plenty of Android 7.1 Nougat based custom ROMs available for it.

Another reason why most people root their handset is to remove the bloatware that their phone ships with. Some OEMs are still notorious for shipping their phones with plenty of pre-installed apps that cannot be removed. By rooting, users are able to remove such apps and free up internal storage on their device. Similarly, on older and mid-range devices, users root their handset to install a debloated custom ROM for better performance

That’s not all though. In terms of advanced customisation, rooting an Android device lets one theme the SystemUI of the OS, change system fonts, enable hidden features, and more. Then, there’s also a custom framework like Xposed that provides one with access to features ported from other Android OEM skins or future versions of Android on their devices.

Rooting an Android device can lead to Android Pay and other banking apps not working on it due to the system partition being modified. For this, there’s Magisk —  a ‘magic mask’ that lets one modify the system partitions without touching the system files at all. With Magisk, a rooted user will be able to install their favorite mods and framework, while still being able to use Android Pay and apps like Netflix.

Why Jailbreak an iPhone?

Jailbreaking an iPhone is all about bypassing the restrictions imposed by Apple to customise iOS the way one wants. If you can live inside Apple’s walled garden, it’s a beautiful place to be in but if you want plenty of customisation options, you will find this walled garden suffocating.

Jailbreaking an iPhone allows a user to change the default system apps, replace system icons, use a different launcher, theme the system UI, change system fonts, customise the Control Center, and more. Jailbreak is outright about customising iOS and its system apps and adding some new functionalities to it.

Most iPhone users jailbreak their phone for Cydia tweaks. Most of the customizations options post jailbreaking an iPhone are to be applied through Cydia. Some popular Cydia tweaks include Activator, BioProtect, Cylinder, iCleaner, and Zeppelin. They all help one customise or enhance the already existing feature set of iOS to make them even better.

Bye Bye Updates

A common downside to both rooting and jailbreaking is that you will have to bid adieu to software updates, with the security of your smartphone being compromised as well. Even if you get a notification of a new OTA update on a rooted Android smartphone or a jailbroken device, installing it will only end up soft bricking the device.

Rooting or jailbreaking your smartphone also makes it easier for hackers and law enforcement agencies to extract data from these phones using sophisticated tools.

Which one is better?

Due to the walled nature of iOS, even slightly advanced customisation options requires one to jailbreak their iPhone. In comparison, changing system icons, replacing stock system apps are all easily possible on an Android device even without root. However, iPhone users don’t need to jailbreak their device to improve its performance, remove bloatware or to update it to the latest version of the OS.

Rooting and jailbreaking have their own pros and cons, with none of them actually being better than both. It’s just that they are means to the same end: provide greater control to end users over their devices

Posted on May 30, 2017 at 11:25 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, iOS, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: ,

Android exploit adds secret, thieving layers to your phone

Jessica Conditt, Engadget, 5/30/17

Google is aware of the issue.

Researchers from UC Santa Barbara and Georgia Tech have discovered a fresh class of Android attacks, called Cloak and Dagger, that can operate secretly on a phone, allowing hackers to log keystrokes, install software and otherwise control a device without alerting its owner. Cloak and Dagger exploits take advantage of the Android UI, and they require just two permissions to get rolling: SYSTEM ALERT WINDOW (“draw on top”) and BIND ACCESSIBILITY SERVICE (“a11y”).

This concerns researchers because Android automatically grants the draw-on-top permission for any app downloaded from the Play Store, and once a hacker is in, it’s possible to trick someone into granting the a11y permission. A Cloak and Dagger-enabled app hides a layer of malicious activity under seemingly harmless visuals, luring users to click on unseen buttons and keystroke loggers.

“To make things worse, we noticed that the accessibility app can inject the events, unlock the phone, and interact with any other app while the phone screen remains off,” the researchers write. “That is, an attacker can perform a series of malicious operations with the screen completely off and, at the end, it can lock the phone back, leaving the user completely in the dark.”

Google is aware of the exploit.

“We’ve been in close touch with the researchers and, as always, we appreciate their efforts to help keep our users safer,” a spokesperson says. “We have updated Google Play Protect — our security services on all Android devices with Google Play — to detect and prevent the installation of these apps. Prior to this report, we had already built new security protections into Android O that will further strengthen our protection from these issues, moving forward.”

One of the researchers, Yanick Fratantonio, tells TechCrunch the recent updates to Android O might address Cloak and Dagger, and the team will test it out and update its website accordingly. For now, he says, don’t download random apps and keep an eye on those permissions.

Posted on May 30, 2017 at 11:15 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

Android Go could help make Android O a runaway success

Chris Velazco, Engadget, 5/20/17

Android O might not seem like the most thrilling software update at first, but it just might be one of the most important. Google has been on a quest to capture and delight billions of new Android users for years with various initiatives. So far, scaling hasn’t been a problem — there are now 2 billion monthly active devices, and with Android Go, Google’s hell-bent on picking up even more in developing and underserved markets.

When phone makers install O on their low-end devices, they don’t just get optimizations to make everything run better. They also get a different set of stock Google apps and a version of the Play Store that highlights apps designed for these limited devices. To be clear, Go — or whatever it winds up being called — isn’t actually a separate version of Android, but a special configuration of Android O meant for low-end devices. And the most fascinating part? It’s just tucked away in the regular O update, invisible to anyone whose phone has more than 1GB of RAM.

“‘Go’ is sort of a focus on the lower hardware specs and mak[ing] sure Android works really well on it,” Android engineering VP Dave Burke told Engadget. While O promises to pack performance and battery enhancements, its Android Go side might help it expand in ways earlier versions couldn’t.

Just look at the stats. Android 7.0 and 7.1 are collectively running on only 7 percent of devices worldwide. Last year’s Marshmallow accounts for 31.2 percent of Android devices out there, and Lollipop is just about even with that. Meanwhile, Android 4.4 KitKat is still very widely used: meaning nearly 19 percent of Android devices are running software from more than three years ago. Needless to say, there’s a wide variety in the experiences available to the world’s Android users.

That’s partially due to how new phones are produced. When companies like Qualcomm or Mediatek cook up a new chipset, the next step involves figuring out which version of Android they can run and tuning it for compatibility. When these companies want to go after entry-level users, Android Go VP of product management Sameer Samat told Engadget that they often dig into the past for versions of Android that would run well without much horsepower. Sometimes, that means a new phone, fresh off the assembly line in 2017, will run Android 4.4 KitKat. Google’s work with Android O, however, could change that.

“What we’ve been doing is working with some of our SoC partners very early with O to get it brought up on entry-level chipsets,” Samat said. In other words, Google is working with chipset makers to make sure they’re aware that Go makes brand-new Android available on even modest hardware, removing the need for those companies to scrounge around for the latest version of Android that would run well.


And when it comes to keeping those devices up-to-date, Project Treble is here to help. At its core, Treble keeps the Android framework separate from the software chipset-makers create to ensure compatibility and device performance. The wall between the two means Android can be updated without chip makers necessarily redoing all of their custom work. Long story short, this should make for easier, more frequent software updates. Between Google’s focus on getting Android O and Go running on phones of all performance levels and Treble’s ability to make sure updates can happen faster than ever, we might see the O experience spread like wildfire. The obvious upside is that people around the world, from very different economic and technical circumstances, could share in O’s modern software foundation.

To be clear, I’m just extrapolating — Samat definitively said that Android O wasn’t designed to “solve fragmentation.” Even so, this is very good news for anyone who buys an entry-level phone in the near future. What’s still unclear is what happens to people out there who already have devices that fit the Go criteria.

On one hand, Google seems unconcerned about the problem. Samat pointed out that many devices that fit the Go spec are running much older versions of Android, so they wouldn’t necessarily get new updates anyway. “That is not something we’ve historically focused on,” he added. “We’re focused on moving this forward.”

Even so, there are devices — like the newly announced Moto C — that only have 1GB of RAM and run Android 7.0. What happens if that device, or one like it, gets an Android O update? Will it get the Go experience or not? Samat says Google is currently in discussions with device makers, but nothing has been locked down yet. The issue is that Android Go has multiple parts, like that specially modified suite of Google apps. And therein lies the rub.

“The problem is that once you have a phone with updates, we can’t just change the apps on you,” Burke told us. “If you were to buy a new phone that was Android Go, you’d have a different set of Google apps.”

Samat and Burke left the upgrade question on an uncertain note, but their willingness to point at ongoing conversations with device makers offers some hope that upgrades to Go-flavored Android O are possible. If nothing else, though, Samat said Google is “likely to make the Google apps that receive the Go treatment available to download” even if you don’t have an entry-level phone.

It’s still early days for Android O and Go, so it’s no surprise that many questions are still unanswered. While it may lack the whiz-bang features that get tech pundits drooling, Android O has the potential to be a more impactful success than any of its recent predecessors.

Posted on May 20, 2017 at 8:20 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

Android Device Manager has a new name: Find My Device

Richard Lawler, Engadget, 5/20/17

Part of the Google Play Protect rollout is a new name for an old feature.

Since Google introduced Android Device Manager in 2013 it has updated the feature periodically, but the latest change gives it a new name — Find My Device — and a few new features. It’s now a part of the Google Play Protect service mentioned earlier during I/O, and most Android owners should see an update for it on their devices. The standard features (similar to iOS’ Find My iPhone) are still intact with the ability to locate, ring, lock down or wipe your hardware remotely — you can even Google Search “Find My Phone” to use it — while it has added information about the current battery level and WiFi network connection.

Posted on May 20, 2017 at 8:14 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, iOS, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: 

Android O is supposed to make Android updates arrive faster

Google is once again trying to solve the problem of slow Android updates, and this time, the company says it has a solution that’ll make it “easier, faster, and less costly for manufacturers” to update their phones to new versions of Android.

The answer is a feature inside of Android O called “Project Treble,” which is supposed to let manufacturers update their phones without having to make a ton of software changes first.

Google has essentially split apart its own work on Android from the work that its hardware partners do on Android to make sure it works with their latest chips. If Treble works like Google says it does, companies like Samsung and Motorola will be able to issue Android updates without waiting for a chip partner, like Qualcomm, to first send along software updates.

Project Treble explanation

It’s not clear if this removes all hurdles or if manufacturers will still have to update Android’s code to make sure that features specific to their phone are working. But it certainly sounds like one of the most concrete things Google has done to address the problem of Android fragmentation.

While the fragmentation situation has gotten better over time, it certainly hasn’t gone away: the latest version of Android, Nougat, has been out for more than eight months and is still on only 7 percent of Android phones. Android Jelly Bean, which was succeeded almost four years ago, is on more devices than that.

Project Treble explanation

Google has tried to speed up Android updates in the past without much luck, so this is still very much something we have to wait and see on. And perhaps more importantly, there’s still one big hurdle: this feature arrives in Android O, and who knows when any existing phones will get updated to the new OS.

We’ll hear more about Treble at Google’s I/O conference next week. The company should be talking more about Android O there, too, though the operating system likely won’t see a full release until later in the year.

Posted on May 17, 2017 at 9:44 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

Android malware spreads like wildfire: 350 new malicious apps every hour

The Next Web, 5/4/17

Better watch out what apps you opt to install on your Android device: It turns out malware-infested software for Google’s mobile operating system is multiplying at an alarming rate.

Security researchers from antivirus software firm G Data have discovered that more than 750,000 new malicious apps have sprung out during the first quarter of this year, with estimates the total number will grow up to a staggering 3.5 million by the end of 2017.

The report further warns the problem is particularly widespread among devices from third-party phonemakers where software updates that tend to receive software updates less frequently and sometimes with significant delays.

To give you some more context, G Data researchers also note that in comparison to this year, they were able to identify at least 3.2 and 2.3 million infected apps in 2016 and 2015 respectively.

According to their findings, G Data claims malware proliferates most significantly in Android Lollipop and Marshmallow, accounting for two-thirds of all infected apps.

Here is the full breakdown:

Given that almost nine out of 10 handsets worldwide run on Android, it is hardly surprising that attackers are targeting Google’s OS.

So in case you want to stay out of harm’s way: Make sure you update your phone to the latest version of Android regularly and download apps exclusively from the Play Store.

Posted on May 4, 2017 at 9:54 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android · Tagged with: 

Apple is upgrading millions of iOS devices to a new modern file system

Apple’s iOS 10.3 is rolling out today, with a new find my AirPods option and CarPlay improvements. Most of the features in iOS 10.3 aren’t major, but Apple is actually undertaking a pretty huge shift for all iPad and iPhone users today. Within iOS 10.3, Apple is moving supported devices to its new Apple File System (APFS). It’s a file system that was originally announced at WWDC last year, and it’s designed with the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, and Apple TV in mind.

Apple has been using its 31-year-old Hierarchical File System (HFS) for iOS devices so far. It was originally designed for Macs with floppy or hard disks, and not for modern mobile devices with solid state storage. Even its successor, HFS+, still doesn’t address the needs of these mobile devices enough. Apple’s new APFS is designed to scale across these new types of devices and take advantage of flash or SSD storage. It’s also engineered with encryption as a primary feature, and even supports features like snapshots so restoring files on a Mac or even an iOS device might get a lot easier in the future.

As APFS is designed to be low latency, this should also improve read and write speeds on iOS or Mac devices. Apple demonstrated this during WWDC last year with a Mac, showing how APFS saved time on a simple file copy compared to HFS+. Most iPhone and iPad users won’t notice a difference after today’s iOS 10.3 update, but there could be a boost to storage levels for some. Beta testers of iOS 10.3 reported seeing more storage available after the update, primarily due to the way APFS calculates available data.

Other than a tiny boost to storage, it’s unlikely you’ll see any benefits from this new file system on an iPad or iPhone just yet. It will help lay some of the foundations for Apple to switch fully over to 64-bit apps only on iOS, something that many believe will happen with iOS 11. What you might notice when you install iOS 10.3 is that it takes longer to install. It shouldn’t be too much longer, but Apple is taking on a big task to carefully and silently update millions of iOS devices’ file systems so things will take a little longer than normal.

Posted on April 3, 2017 at 8:22 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: iOS, Mobile Technology

Gmail for Android can send and receive payments as attachments

Mariella Moon, Engadget, 3/15/17

The Google Wallet integration used to be exclusive to Gmail for the web.

The Gmail app for Android has scored what used to be a web-only feature. It now has Google Wallet integration, so you can send and request money right within your emails. Say, you need to split the bill for a dinner — all you need to do is tap the attachment icon and click “Send money” to pay your friend. A Google Wallet pop up will ask you how much you want to send and will forward your payment as an attachment.

In case you’re typically the one receiving payments for group dinners, shared bills and the like, you can also tweak the feature’s settings to send the money straight to your bank account. The feature works even if your friends, roommates or co-workers don’t use Gmail, but only if you’re all in the US. Since it’s only available for users in the country and only on Android and the web, you’ll probably want to keep those other payment apps on your phone.

Posted on March 15, 2017 at 9:31 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

Android devices coming with preinstalled malware

, ComputerWorld, 3/14/17

Android devices were infected with malware at some point after leaving the manufacturers, but before landing in the hands of companies’ employees.

The phone, given to you by your company, could be targeted at some point and end up with a malware infection, but you wouldn’t expect the malware to be pre-installed “somewhere along the supply chain.” Yet pre-installed malware is precisely what one security vendor found on 38 Android devices.

Check Point Software Technologies did not name the affected companies, saying only that the phones belonged to “a large telecommunications company” and “a multi-nation technology company.” A good chunk of the infected phones were Samsung models, but phones by Lenovo, LG, Asus, ZTE, Vivo, Oppo and Xiaomi were also preinstalled with malware after leaving the manufacturers but before landing in the hands of the companies’ employees.

Check Point explained that the malware was “already present on the devices even before the users received them. The malicious apps were not part of the official ROM supplied by the vendor, and were added somewhere along the supply chain. Six of the malware instances were added by a malicious actor to the device’s ROM using system privileges, meaning they couldn’t be removed by the user and the device had to be re-flashed.”

The infected Android devices were tainted with various types of malware, with most being info-stealers and malicious ad networks; Check Point called Loki the most notable malware. One device came preinstalled with the mobile ransomware Slocker which encrypts all the files on a phone, demands a ransom in exchange for the decryption key, and communicates with its C&C server via Tor.

The malware was not always found in the same app. Check Point included the full list of malware, SHA hashes and affected devices. The list originally included 38 Android devices, but Check Point removed Nexus 5 and Nexus 5X without giving a detailed explanation.

The 36 remaining malware-tainted devices included these models:

Even if users are careful by avoiding risky sites and install apps only from trusted sources like the Play Store, Check Point said that is not enough to guarantee their security. “Pre-installed malware compromise the security even of the most careful users. In addition, a user who receives a device already containing malware will not be able to notice any change in the device’s activity which often occur once a malware is installed.”

Hopefully you do use a malware scanner on your mobile devices. Keep in mind that not all mobile security apps are created equal.


Posted on March 14, 2017 at 9:04 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: